Saturday, January 4, 2014

OB Gone Completely

This post, with a title playing on Obi Wan Kenobi, is a day or two late, and more than a few dollars short.  But alas, I was away in Phoenix when the bad news broke, just another cracked brick in the wall of a rather regrettable 2013 year.
O'Brien on his way to Texas.

I honestly don't know how I feel about Bill O'Brien leaving the Penn State program, but like grief, my emotions are going through a five stage process.

Denial.

They are just rumors.  There were rumors last year.  Had he stayed, there would have been rumors next year. 

Maybe this is just a chess game to get more money, better facilities, a different AD--the rumors were nearly endless as the talks heated up between OB and Houston.

In the end, they weren't just rumors.

Anger.

Who wouldn't be angry?  OB was the best thing that happened to Penn State since the fall of Joe Paterno and the whole Sandusky Scandal surfaced.  While it would minimize the efforts of players like Mauti to say that Bill saved the program, it would certainly have been more difficult for the players to remain united if the coaching vacancy hadn't been adequately filled.

But OB was just on the cusp of greatness.  Hackenberg was progressing.  There was hope that Allen Robinson would stay as part of the revitalized Penn State offense (and hopefully he still will!)  There were rumors that perhaps even more sanctions might be reduced in the off-season, such as the bowl ban--already OB was armed with more scholarships than originally decreed.

The future was looking bright and there appeared to be some stability to a program that had more instability in the past two years than in the previous century.

Bargaining.

This is a stage of grief and has nothing to do with this situation at this point, so let's move on.  We will probably never know what went on behind the scenes and who did or said what.  OB apparently told David Jones of the Patriot News this:
“You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a ---- what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.
“For any ‘Paterno person’ to have any objection to what I’m doing, it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now.”
This talk with Jones apparently occurred on December 4th.  Reading that now, is it any surprise that O'Brien left?  With road rage like that, who would stay in a job that created such adverse emotion?

It does beg the question of WHO these Paterno people are that he refers to?  Sue Paterno?  Bloggers?  Fans?  Coaches?  PSU administrators?  BOT?  Again, we will never know for sure who pissed him off, but Bob was apparently a ticking time bomb with some anger management issues.

Depression.

The sky has fallen!  Woe is me!  The end is near!  Oh, the inhumanity!

Acceptance.

The dude has done moved on.  Let's get to work on a replacement before we lose any recruits.

Seriously, though, I'm not sure just how I feel about this.  I am obviously disappointed, but not surprised.  In an era where the average coaching tenure is 3.9 seasons, one would be blissfully ignorant to expect O'Brien to be coaching at Penn State 10+ years from now (and that article is from 2010 and Joe Paterno's years skew that number higher than it would be if recalculated today--and those numbers might include Tressel and Bobby Bowden as well, depending on their endpoints.)  It sure would have been nice for him to hang around another 2-3 years for Hack and the guys he convinced to stay with him, but then what can you say?  The NFL was HIS DREAM!  Isn't that what this is all about?

This is unfortunately the message being taught to our young people today.  It is OK to screw others if the self-benefit is above a certain level.  There is a price above which loyalty and courtesy have no currency.  It is OK for O'Brien to chase HIS dreams, even if in so doing, he may harm the dreams of others.  And the reality is this:  unless Penn State hires an unemployed coach, whoever replaces OB will be doing the same thing to the team they leave behind.  And Penn State fans, if we like the choice, will all be down with that, right?  Hypocrisy is often no further than the nearest mirror.

There are at least interesting choices available at this point (perhaps moreso than two years ago when O'Brien was named). . . Al Golden appears to be the front runner if you believe the Internet rumors.  James Franklin just guided his Vanderbilt team to a victory over Houston in their bowl game, so he has not even had the opportunity to interview yet, if he is even interested.  Mike Munchak was fired today as coach of the Titans.  Is that good/bad timing or what?  I have not even gotten over OB leaving yet, let alone started to worry about who the next coach should be.

But time is a valuable commodity and cannot be wasted.  We don't want to lose any players or recruits at this point, so there is some need for haste.  But haste makes waste, and we don't want to make a hasty choice we might later regret.

I would love to know if there have been inquiries from other coaches/agents around the country, but again, we will never be privy to that information as no current coach will want it known that they are pursuing a job opportunity elsewhere.  But it makes me feel better believing that a few great coaches out there would be interested enough in the job to reach out and touch someone, even if that someone is Joyner.

As an aside, I found it refreshing to hear that Mark D'Antonio doesn't have an agent--you need to call his wife.  I don't think we need to call her, but I wonder if she called Joyner and Co.?  It's fun to fantasize about things like that, and we could certainly do worse than him with whoever ends up with the job.

For O'Brien . . . None of this was his fault.  He took the job BEFORE the sanctions were announced, and I believe he did make the best of what he had to work with given the circumstances.  But he is being decidedly obtuse if he thought he would follow a legend like Paterno without there being loyalists who would criticize his actions. 

I do not wish him well, though.  I must admit that if he fails at Houston, I will feel a certain amount of pleasure, retribution, and justice.  I still cling precariously to the hope that good people will win out over evil or greedy people.  Maybe this is part of God's plan.  And perhaps wishing ill will is not a very Christian way to think, but my Ten Commandments don't have a Thou Shall Not Wish Ill on Thy Enemies commandment.  There is that whole Do Unto Others Golden Rule, but I'm okay with that.  Bill is certainly welcome to wish ill on me and take pleasure in my failings any time he wants.  It can work both ways.

In the long run, I think Penn State will be better off.  Things are certainly more stable now and while we might lose a few recruits, it will be more difficult for players to transfer, as the usual transfer rules will now apply, which they did not when Silas fled with others.  O'Brien said he considered the NFL the ultimate job, so in that respect, he has kept his word.  If he doesn't want to be a Penn Stater, and if people who support Joe Paterno annoy him, then good riddance.  We can do better than that.

After all. . . WE ARE . . . PENN STATE!

Was O'Brien here too?
The above picture apparently was taken in the Buckeye locker room after their loss to Clemson.  An angry player, Bill O'Brien, or the ghost of Woody Hayes?  You decide.

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